The Dutch company RanMarine Technology has developed an autonomously floating drone for cleaning waters. It recently started using Telekom’s Precise Positioning System for precise navigation. It supplements data from satellites and provides more precise information than these. In this way, the drone avoids breaks and detours.
Diligent helper against flotsam
About 80 percent of the plastic waste in oceans comes from rivers, canals, harbors, and beaches. To clean up these waterways and counteract the increasing pollution of the oceans, the start-up RanMarine has launched the WasteShark.
This aqua drone, powered by two electric motors, swims through targeted areas of polluted waterways, swallowing floating waste such as plastic bottles and bags or disturbing biomass such as invasive algae. The device can be controlled by radio but, in a world first, can also autonomously follow a set route – funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, among others.
The cleaning drone is equipped with a camera, sensors and a GNSS receiver (Global Navigation Satellite System). It orients itself independently in the water. It also avoids obstacles. A front camera and a LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor help it do so.
The sensor detects objects by laser and displays them in three dimensions. Users have previously defined the waypoints of the collection route on a digital map. One weakness so far has been the inaccuracy in determining the position via satellite. It can be several meters.
This is too imprecise for the WasteShark, which is supposed to use sensors to measure water quality, among other things, and then transmit the measurement points precisely.
And in the future, the floating robot will be able to empty its waste container and recharge its battery at a docking station.
Precise Positioning delivers correction data from the cloud
This is where Telekom‘s Precise Positioning solution comes in: It enables extremely precise determination of the position of mobile vehicles – to within a few centimeters. Here’s how it works: A nationwide network of hundreds of reference stations on several continents measures local satellite navigation interference. The cloud-based service from Telekom partner Swift Navigation sends the corrected position data via mobile communications to WasteShark, which uses the information for more precise navigation.
Precise Positioning brings RanMarine several advantages at once. Not only does the drone find its way safely to the loading and unloading station. It travels more efficiently on the marked course and can collect more waste in the same amount of time – reducing costs and requiring fewer charging cycles.
In addition, the location and timing of water quality data measured along the way, such as pH or temperature, can be accurately determined. The Aqua Drone can avoid obstacles even more reliably.
“Telekom‘s system is significantly more reliable than public corrective services and works out-of-the-box,” said Richard Hardiman, founder and CEO of RanMarine Technology. “In addition, the service is available in almost every area in the world where our WasteShark is deployed. Precise Positioning provides us with the accuracy and scalability we need to continually evolve our Aqua drones.”
RanMarine at Digital X 2023
The Dutch company will demonstrate its Aqua drone on September 20 and 21 at Digital X 2023 in Cologne, Germany, Europe’s largest cross-industry digitization initiative.